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The Black Mountain Center for the Arts bid an emotional farewell to Gale Jackson on May 31, as the local art community came together to celebrate the longtime executive director's retirement. 

What began as a gathering on the upper level of the historic building ended in the theater below, where the evening culminated with the unveiling of its new name — "The Gale Jackson Theatre."

Around 200 people attended the celebration at the Center for the Arts, which has operated out of the former Black Mountain town hall since it was restored in 2000. 

The celebration kicked off with a reception in the upper gallery of the arts center, spilling over into the studio across the hall where live music and dancing filled the room. Jackson mingled with guests who came to show their appreciation for her work as the director. 

The event moved to the theater on the first floor, where BMCA events coordinator Jessica Klarp welcomed the capacity crowd and an introduced a series of tributes to Jackson. 

As BMCA board member Gary Paben announced a final honor for Jackson, Klarp unveiled a sign introducing the theater's new name. 

An emotional Jackson showed her appreciation when she addressed the room in the room that now bears her name. 

"You don't do 20 years alone," she said. "Everybody here is worthy of my gratitude. Thank you to every person in this room."

Jackson, who moved to Black Mountain from Indiana when she accepted the position in 2000, will remain in the Swannanoa Valley, she told the audience. 

New director Lori Cozzi will step into the role in mid-July. 

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